BREAKING NEWS: Two Dead, Two Listed In Critical Condition, 21 Taken To Hospitals; Troubling Medical Situation Develops At New-Age Retreat In Arizona

Sweat dome: Photo courtesy of Yavapai County sheriff’s office.

Sweat dome: Photo courtesy of Yavapai County sheriff’s office.

UPDATED 7:15 P.M. EDT (U.S.A.) Homicide detectives are investigating a disturbing situation in Arizona in which two people have died and others developed severe medical symptoms after engaging in a group sauna at the Angel Valley Retreat in Sedona.

Angel Valley promotes “a unique energetic environment to support your journey of self-discovery, healing and realization of your True Self.” The retreat is near the ranch of Sen. John McCain.

Dwight D’Evelyn, a spokesman for the Yavapai County sheriff’s office, said 64 people were inside a structure known as a “sweat dome” when some of the participants became ill.

The event was hosted by James Ray, D’Evelyn said.

James Ray is an author who has appeared on Oprah and Larry King Live, among other programs. Ray was inside the sweat dome when participants were sickened and was interviewed last evening by authorities.

Ray’s company, James Ray International, provides a release of liability for events that reads in part:

“I am fully aware and understand that I will be given the opportunity by the Company to
participate in physical, emotional and other activities during the Event, some of which
may take place outdoors and/or require the participants to be isolated from one another
and/or include very loud music.

“I am fully aware that I may suffer physical, emotional, financial or other injury during any of the Activities and there is and can be no assurance or guarantee regarding my health or safety in connection with my participation in the Activities.”

Ray’s company expressed condolences today “to those who lost friends and family” and a prayer for “a speedy recovery for those who took ill,” the Associated Press is reporting.

Few additional details have emerged. At least 21 people were taken to hospitals after being inside the crudely constructed, sauna-like sweat dome at the facility. At least two people have died and three more are reported to be in critical condition.

Investigators are treating the area as a crime scene, although authorities have not said whether they believe a crime had occurred. The incident began to unfold yesterday and was treated as a hazardous-materials situation.

Three people were in cardiac arrest when medical crews arrived, according to early reports.

Fox News initially slugged the story URGENT, and a local ABC affiliate is reporting that the Yavapai County sheriff’s office is in the process of obtaining search warrants.

D’Evelyn said the agency would hold a news conference tomorrow.

“Some attendees told detectives they paid up to $9000.00 for their stay and participation in the program” Ray hosted, D’Evelyn said, in a sheriff’s office statement.

See early coverage at

See early Fox News coverage.

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3 Responses to “BREAKING NEWS: Two Dead, Two Listed In Critical Condition, 21 Taken To Hospitals; Troubling Medical Situation Develops At New-Age Retreat In Arizona”

  1. Very interesting! It sounds like it might have been something like a Native America sweat lodge. I’ve been to Sedona a couple of times and while it’s defiantly out west (especially if you start from Florida) Sedona doesn’t seem like a place where a Native America ceremony of such spiritual importance would be put on by Native Americans. I know I’ve read where deaths aren’t uncommon in sweat lodges, even for Native Americans, and that someone unaccustomed to them probably couldn’t survive. Very sad. I think I’ll stick with my conservative branch of the Presbyterian Church!


  2. Heard on the news this afternoon, most of the participants completed a 2 1/2 day fast prior to the sweat lodge event, which may have caused some of the distress. The exact cause will probably be revealed after an autopsy has been completed. Sedona is not only beautiful but has several vortex areas also known as energy is locate below the magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright designed church located in the area, There is also MUCH Native American activity which attracts a large new age population coupled with the spiritual energy of the Vortexes.

    I traveled out there several years back to hike the Grand Canyon and visit Sedona specifically for the healing. It truly is worth any effort it might take to get there! I am sad for these victims. They embarked on a spiritual journey which should have been life changing..not the opposite.


  3. I was in the area when we took a two week trip down the Grand Canyon years ago. Absolutely gorgeous area.

    Obviously this is sheer speculation but we were warned while in the canyon that some areas have some extremely dangerous microbes in the water and even the best filters were not recommended. Who knows what happened, especially with the “healing and spiritual” components, but it’s still sad.


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